Tag Archives: People

Is your talent adorning the restroom?

On my recent visit to a wonderful new luxury hotel in town, I found it very interesting that an artist’s work was commissioned right outside the restroom (pic below).

Is your talent adorning the restroom?

It seemed, at least to me, that the only reason that painter, or rather her talent, was of any particular importance to the hotel designers was if she could paint something that fitted the small wall that welcomed people to the restroom. They obviously couldn’t find anything ‘standard’ like a piece of Italian marble or some nice tiles to go on that wall. This being a top-end hotel, they must have selected the very best talent they could get (or their money could buy). And then they took her work and put it next to the restroom. Along with her name right next to it. And now, everyone who has been to these restrooms will remember her name – “Oh yes. Of course, I have seen your work. It was right next to the loo…!“.

Are we missing something?

I think there is no waste as criminal as the waste of human talent. And they come on all shades, shapes and sizes:

  • Making people not just work, but slog over the long evenings and weekends on products or features that no one wants.
  • Hiring top-notch people and then making them work on low-end problems, like finding meeting rooms or fixing a meeting with 43 people in half a dozen time zones. Many many years back, a friend of mine joined a top software company only to leave after 6 months because all he was doing was fixing bugs on a ten year old OS.
  • Hiring professionals at high salaries and then depriving them of tools or resources that might cost less than their day’s salary, thereby making them struggle with their tasks manually. I used to have a colleague in Holland who was headed to make his career in sending documents by fax (surely, this was in 90s).
  • Hiring smart engineers and then micromanaging them. I remember seeing a recent tweet that said – “Office is the place where adults are treated like children”. Ouch…that hurt!
  • Hiring smart engineers but then surrounding them with incompetent people around them. A facilities team that will not allow them to buy a whiteboard for the team. A procurement team that will frustrate all your efforts to get a $20 tool on time. A travel team that will route you through Afghanistan just so the company could save a few dollars. A finance team that will insist on missing receipt for airport cab when everyone knows there is no way you have reached there without a cab.
  • Making engineers sit on ‘bench’, keeping them underengaged, or making them work on mindless projects that no one wants.
  • Making people attend jumbo meetings and late-night calls. No, not just any meeting but one that has like 73 people on the call, all equally clueless. (And reprimanding them when they don’t attend them!)
  • Asking people for feedback on what ails the workplace for the 36% attrition and then ruthlessly defending every single feedback (and haunt the most outspoken ones till they leave on their own).
  • Enforcing work-from-office because basically the management has no trust or capability in ‘managing’ people if they are out of sight. All in the name of ensuring face-time needed for collaboration and innovation.
  • Constantly changing strategy so the products under development get canned. I once worked at a company where about two dozen engineers freshly graduated had ‘worked’ on two back-to-back projects that got canned in rapid succession. Needless to say, they all came from top colleges and were raring to go.
  • Forcing people to do what the organization thinks they should do vs letting them choose what they want to do. I once left a company within a few weeks because of exactly this reason.
  • Creating a standard process that the ‘smart’ individuals must then follow – no matter what. Also, adding a layer of process police to report any non-compliance!
  • Hiring people but not empowering them, so they have nowhere to go but ‘respect’ the hierarchy of 27 layers of management above them for every small thing
  • Making people fill up useless time sheets and meaningless status reports (and don’t even get me started on the “TPS report”…yes, that TPS report 🙂
  • …and so on!!!

However, in all my experience, I never realized that someone might want your talent so badly that it could be used to adorn their restroom. Imagine you are a highly qualified musician, and you get a call. “Yeah…we want you to come down and perform for the next Muzak!”. So, you will tell your friends..”Yay! I got the career break I was looking for…I am going to change people’s lives by producing the next gen elevator music!“. Really?

I think this is the single-biggest hidden source of employe disengagement – making people do dumb stuff, or showing low respect to them, their talent or their work. I think as more and more work gets de-industralized, there is growing desire among each one among us to do more and more creative work. Work that stretches our learning. Work that we want to show to our friends and families. We all dream of putting our tiny signature on that one masterpiece that we one day will be proud of. That one product that will save millions of lives. That one app that half the world uses. That one service that everyone swears by. The legacy that we will leave for future generations. Not that one painting that adorns the restroom!

By no means I am suggesting that decorating restroom or creating Muzak are below dignity. I am only asking to look at the world from the pair of eyes of that talent who has just been asked to do that mind-numbing stuff.

But seriously, if you were Leonardo da Vinci, and you got a call to paint your next famous painting so that it could adorn the restroom, you will know exactly what I mean.

And who, in their private dreams, doesn’t think of themselves as one…

(Originally published on https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/your-talent-adorning-restroom-tathagat-varma)

How are you managing your talent?

In recent times, performance appraisal has been a subject of intense ideological debates. Performance appraisals have traditionally served as a mechanism to basically assess an individual’s performance in the previous year to reward employees in terms of compensation and career progression in the coming year. On one hand, organizations, at least the reasonably larger ones, need some systematic and transparent way to deal with employee’s performance evaluation. On the other hand, with more part-time and virtual employees entering the workforce on a very mission-based engagement as opposed to building a long-term career, the whole idea of formal performance management systems seems to be rather backdated. So, what’s the real deal?

The discipline of performance management has been relatively recent, and rather controversial. Taylor pioneered the subject with his famous Time and Motion studies that highlighted the notion of individual worker productivity, and demonstrated, rather successfully, how application of scientific management could be used to tremendously improve such productivity without exhausting or shortchanging the worker. His thoughts on The Principles of Scientific Management are a great peek into the social system and division of responsibilities between management and workers at American workplace at that time, and should be considered as just that – a journey in time where human society was coming together for the very first time to engage in large-scale machine-based manufacturing, and the theories and practices were still very raw and constantly evolving. 

talentHe criticized that the ‘best system’ at that time, the so-called ‘initiative and incentive’ management was really not the best because it relied completely on the workman, and, in turn, made management unconditionally responsible for this. His fourth principle states – “There is an almost equal division of the work and the responsibility between the management and the workmen. The management take over all work for which they are better fitted than the workmen, while in the past almost all of the work and the greater part of the responsibility were thrown upon the men”.  He further writes – “It is this combination of the initiative of the workmen, coupled with the new types of work done by the management, that makes scientific management so much more efficient than the old plan”.  While I believe Taylor’s intent must have been to apportion the accountability to the one best-suited to influence and ultimately achieve the results, thereby protecting the innocent workers for collective outputs beyond their scope of control or influence, I think this has also led to some serious long-term challenges. However, in an unfortunate way, in one sweeping shot, Taylor condemned an entire generation of workers to subservience by keeping them outside the decision-making process, which subsequently rose on to become an elite preserve of the new management class. This further championed the era of Fordism where ‘division of labor’ and moving assembly line lead to unprecedented growth in productivity, faster production times and worker wages, but also led to lower skill requirement from the workers. Here’s an interesting piece on this counterintuitive thinking from Henry Ford and Innovation, which was a marvel at that time, and literally led to creation of an America middle class and a culture of mass consumption:

“Ford’s $5 day is often cited as a key factor in expanding the middle class. But less often understood is just how that happened. The $5 day did more than simply increase wages. It reversed the historical relationship between wages and skill.

Throughout history, the way for workers to increase the price they demanded for their services was to increase their skill level. The master craftsman always made more money than the journeyman. Conversely, the way for an employer to lower labor costs was to lower the skill required to do the work. For example, mechanization in the textile industry and the shoe industry lowered the skill level required to spin yarn and make shoes, and lowered the value of the labor of the workers in question. But the $5 day turned that relationship on its head by creating something the world had never seen before: the low-skill/high-wage job. Suddenly high-wage jobs were available to large numbers of people who could never have had them before, especially people from rural areas and from foreign countries. The Georgia sharecropper and the Polish peasant both found in Detroit or other industrial cities the opportunity to make a good living despite their lack of industrial skills. Unfortunately, this process led to a devaluing of education on the part of many workers and their children. Why do I need an education, they asked, to work on the line? A willingness to work, not a high school diploma, is all that is required.”

Taylor’s work in 1911 also had significant impact on industrial management theories and practices at that time, and was subsequently built-upon by the pioneering industrial psychologist Walter Dill Scott in his ‘man to man scale’ in 1923. Scott’s work, especially for the army had major influence on how performance is evaluated, and even compared among workers.

In subsequent years, the great management guru Drucker felt there was a need to have a system to assign goals lest managers lost sight due to the so-called ‘activity trap’ of being immersed in fighting daily battles. Drucker introduced the idea of Management by Objectives, or MBO in 1955, which “… is participative goal setting, choosing course of actions and decision making. An important part of the MBO is the measurement and the comparison of the employee’s actual performance with the standards set. Ideally, when employees themselves have been involved with the goal setting and choosing the course of action to be followed by them, they are more likely to fulfill their responsibilities.” However, apparently, Drucker himself got disillusioned with MBOs as he felt “…MBO is just another tool. It is not the great cure for management inefficiency … Management by objectives works if you know the objectives: 90% of the time you don’t.” There has been criticism from other thinkers and practitioners that MBO tends to overemphasize control as opposed to fostering creativity to meet their goals.

Meanwhile, another great guru, the quality guru Deming was also one of the critics of Drucker’s approach. Deming identified evaluation of performance, merit rating or annual performance review as one of the Seven Deadly Diseases.  He wrote in The Deming System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK) – “A manager of people needs to understand that all people are different. This is not ranking people. He needs to understand that the performance of anyone is governed largely by the system that he works in, the responsibility of management.” Clearly, there were growing concerns among leading thinkers if conventional system of rating and ranking people were effective in the long-run.

However, notwithstanding such criticism, another bold experiment was in the offing. The great manager of all times, Jack Welch introduced the tough system or ‘rank and yank’ at GE that earned him the moniker of Neutron Jack but led to unprecedented gains in productivity and performance. However, similar experiments at knowledge companies such as Microsoft seem to now have been recently criticized as a failure that led the lost decade.  

However, the advent of 21st century changed everything. The notion of tech-savvy, highly confident and fiercely independent Gen X and Gen Y knowledge workers working on small and highly collaborative teams in a highly empowering culture of self-organization became the new normal. Simultaneously, the concept of leadership underwent major transformation where the Command and Control leader had to finally cede its position in favor of a more democratic and collaborative leader who provided servant leadership which was led by influence (rather than authority) and knowledge was bigger source of power than titles (or corner office). In such an environment, managing talent the old way was bound to be detrimental to employee motivation, team productivity and company performance in the long run. During this last decade, the hitherto employer-centric jobmarket became a predominantly employee-centric. Internet and globalization created opportunities for the best talent to chart their own course rather than work for big brands. In software development, the advent of agile manifesto signaled an era of managerless teams. How do you manage talent in such teams? And who manages it – remember, there is no manager here!

We all might not be in utopia yet. The reality is that not every organisation or team will be able to achieve such self-organization, at least in the forseeable future, and perhaps it might not be the most effective management system for every kind of industry. So, there will always be a need to have traditional system of performance management, but adapted to the newer environment. Instead of making performance appraisal as an annual event, we all know that we need to make it more like an ongoing process round the year. We know that it’s not just the employees, but even the managers that are uncomfortable with the idea of performance appraisals. We need better mechanisms to collect 360 degrees of feedback from top, down and sideways. We need stronger linkages to company goals and a more meticulous follow-ups, and clear demonstration of the accomplishments. We need more objective ways to apply standards of performance consistently across the organization. And, we need to do all this without making the process complex, bureaucratic, or time-consuming. We need to recognize that support systems should keep pace with the pace at which business is being asked to deliver results. And finally, clearly staying focused that this is simply one of the means to eventually deliver the ends.

For startups and new businesses, this is less of a challenge, for they are invariably formed with different objectives and are low on traditional symbols of performance or career progression. It is normal for most team members of a startup to take lower salaries and equal (and multiple) roles in a team. There is no notion of career progression – rather, the opportunity to work on bleeding edge problems is the biggest reward these individuals crave for, and the IPO dreams keep them going beyond the thresholds of sanity and hard work.

However, I think any non-trivial organization needs some systemic solution to ensure that standard processes are applied consistently and are executed free of individual manager biases and prejudices. In such organizations, apart from having a centralized performance management system, there might even be a requirement to connect-up information with/from/to other adjacent HR functions – compensation, recruitment, learning and development, compensation management, and finally succession planning. In such situations, solutions such as Halogen eAppraisal might make sense, because they can ensure compliance with organization-wide standards and timelines, while ensuring that information from associated HR functions doesn’t get lost out while conducting performance appraisals.

So, whether you are a large multinational or a startup, the basics of talent management are critical – in fact, they haven’t been more important ever. We are in the era of talent scarcity and with everything else being equal and openly available to anyone across the globe, the success depends on having the best talent which is then let loose on solving the most complex problems.

So, how are you managing your talent?

What’s the People factor in your Innovation equation?

Innovation is the hot new buzzword of our time. Everyone seems to be badly smitten by it. Going by the popular literature, those who don’t innovate are assured to perish sooner than later. Given that previous silver bullets Total Quality Management of 80s, Business Process Reengineering of 90s, and the most recent of them all – Outsourcing in early 21st century – have still left a LOT to be desired, there is clearly enough interest and expectation if Innovation can finally deliver! Coupled with a world still edgy after major Global Financial Crisis and an uncertain Euro zone, and we have perfect conditions to embrace Innovation in all shapes and forms – right from black magic to a holistic way of doing business – even if it still turns out to be a whimper.

Wait! Of course, it would be blasphemy to even as much as suggest that innovation could turn out to be a whimper! Like all of you good people, I too believe innovation is the key to sustainable competitive advantage in the increasingly uncertain and hyper-dynamic world. But, let’s just rollback to 80s for a moment – didn’t they say the same about TQM in those good old days? Or about BPR in 90s? Or about outsourcing until the last decade? Each generation came up with its own silver bullet fervently believing in its potent powers to slay the demons of poor corporate performance (in whatever metrics what you measure – be it topline revenue, or bottomline profits, or marketshare, or employee engagement and so on). And yet, history – the roughest of them all teachers – has reminded us time and again how naïve and wrong we were all along! All these management systems – well thought out and backed by years of irrefutable research and solid data – were heralded as the ultimate panacea in their heydays. However, they lasted only till the next crisis! The next sets of crises were much more powerful, much bigger and more ‘new’ than the previous ones, and like the stains of bacteria that grow resistant with each new antibiotics, they were invincible with the then start of art methods. Clearly something was amiss.

Here’s my take – all these systems were exactly that – just systems! They sought to fix the processes without really putting people in the middle of the equation – even though all the work was carried out by humans. I think we took Frederick Winslow Taylor a tad too seriously when he said, “in the past, the man has been first; in the future, the system must be first” in The Principles of Scientific Management back in 1911. Of course, we forgot to read the next two lines right after this sentence, “This in no sense, however, implies that great men are not needed. On the contrary, the first object of any good system must be that of developing first-class men; and under systemic management the best man rises to the top more certainly and more rapidly than ever before”. We simply delinked people from process and attacked the process performance problem without acknowledging that if people are not motivated enough, the performance improvement payoffs might either be short-lived and might not sustain at the same levels in the long run.

So, is Innovation is also going to meet similar fate and become another exhibit at the Museum of Management Systems? Maybe, or maybe not! Depends on how we change our strategy this time. If we continue to pay lip service to innovation as yet another management mantra, I am sure we will see another new management system in next few years. But if done right, we could certainly create better results that could last much longer than previous generations of management systems. Actually, there is just one thing that needs to be done right – get the people factor back into the equation.

Somewhere in mid-90s and beyond, we started throwing around the words ‘knowledge economy’ to represent the shift towards an economy that primarily dealt with ‘knowledge’ as opposed to, say, manufactured products. It signaled the Negraponte Switch from ‘atoms’ to ‘bits’. The term ‘knowledge’ worker’ came to be known as the move from blue-collar worker to white-collar worker  to pink-collar worker and finally to what I call as the ‘round-collar worker’ – someone who makes money from their ‘brain’ more than their predecessor cohorts of workers, and often have slightest regard for a formal workplace power structure and thrive in informal and empowered environment. They are on the top of their game, and don’t require any hierarchy to support them. Of course, the ’round-collar’ in their moniker comes from the quintessential round-collar tees that not just signify a more relaxed taste in dressing-down, but also brings a sense of confidence and swagger that typically comes from someone who knows their stuff.

Another less visible but far more important thing to note here is that in last couple of management systems, this is perhaps the first time that the worker has sprinted ahead of the system, and has become much more important – so much so that they has made the system redundant. And needless to say, the existing top crop has no clue how to deal with it!

Now let’s get back to the innovation story.

Imagine going back into a modern workplace, full of knowledge workers and telling that from tomorrow we have a new management system, and it is known as innovation. I will leave you to visualize rest of the conversation in your minds :).

So, how do we get it right? Unlike the previous generations of workers, where each of the management systems was imposed top-down, I don’t think this approach can work anymore in flat and egalitarian workplaces of today. Innovation process must be driven bottoms-up that unleashes individual human potential for creativity and challenging the status quo. So far, we hired and groomed professionals who ‘complied’ with our laid-down processes – we hired those who ‘fitted’ in our culture, we promoted those who furthered our existing thought process. Power hierarchy in those organizations was perfectly designed to promote compliance. There was hardly any place for non-believers, doubters, questioners, diagreers, dissenters or harbingers of change.

The current and upcoming generation is anything but that!

How are you going to channelize their talent and energy into something that works for you? How are going to enter the short-term vs. long-term battle? How are you going to embrace a higher risk/reward equation? How are you going to deal with the brash and young workforce that might give you maximum a few months as an employer before going out across the street and creating a new startup that might eventually buy you out a few years down the line?

By writing a new management system that once again puts checks and balances and builds a system of mistrust which saps their energies and stifles their creativity, or by trusting in their abilities and further liberating them? Depending on what approach you take, you will be deciding whether innovation is going to work for you, or will just end up becoming yet another exercise in futility. Eric Douglas has some thoughts on how leaders can make or break the people factor by how they comes across to people. Richard Branson places much higher premium on getting the right people for entrepreneurial success, which is perhaps strongest form of innovation, for nothing could be as audacious and risky as taking an idea and creating a business ground-up. I had blogged about some of the reasons why people don’t innovate in organisations (but rather end up leaving them and do it on their own!).

Goran Ekvall has identified ten innovation climate dimensions that could serve as a great starting point for organizations to self-assess how ready they are to embrace innovation:

  1. Challenge How challenged, emotionally involved,and committed are employees to the work?
  2. Freedom How free is the staff to decide how to do their job?
  3. Idea time Do employees have time to think things through before having to act?
  4. Dynamism the eventfulness of life in the organisation
  5. Idea support Are there resources to give new ideas a try?
  6. Trust and openness Do people feel safe speaking their minds and offering different points of view?
  7. Playfulness and humor How relaxed is the workplace-is it okay to have fun?
  8. Conflicts To what degree do people engage in interpersonal conflict or ‘warfare?”
  9. Debates To what degree do people engage in lively debates about the issues’
  10. Risk-taking Is it okay to fail?

There is enough literature, theory and evidence to suggest the people factor is core to the culture of innovation. Yet, I continue to be amazed that smart organizations tend to create an elaborate management system to ‘support’ and ‘control’ the innovation process. When I meet folks form industry and listen to presentations and papers, I am repeatedly shocked to discover how much focus is on process part of yet compared to how to really enable people and democratize the process of innovation! I hope that understand this can’t be yet another checklist item on their marketing brochure that can win them next contract – it is much deeper and bigger than that. It’s their future that they can’t afford to shortchange!

So, what’s the people factor in your innovation equation?

Bridging the Cultural Divide in Global Projects

This is a guest post by Michelle Symonds. Michelle has many years’ experience in IT and IT Project Management in the oil industry and investment banking working on complex global projects involving the management of overseas project teams. She is now a freelance consultant specialising in article writing for businesses such as www.parallelprojecttraining.com and is also editor of the Project Management News website www.projectaccelerator.co.uk.

With most major corporations doing business on a global scale, projects are naturally part of that global business and, as such, project management is increasingly about leading projects and teams from different countries and cultures. This introduces potential risks related to language, time-zone and cultural differences, above and beyond the usual project risks.

The project management of geographically diverse projects requires a different approach to leading and communicating with teams if it is to address the cultural divides that often exist so that effective multi-cultural teams may be developed to deliver successful projects. It is important to recognise that cultural barriers are not simply between “East” and “West” but that they can potentially exist between any two different countries from any part of the globe. A cultural divide can exist between closely located countries and even between countries with the same language so recognising this at the outset of a global project, and introducing strategies to deal with it, is essential for a successful project outcome.

But, whilst location, language and time-zone differences will have an effect on a project, these aspects are relatively straightforward to manage for an experienced global project manager. Less easy to manage effectively are the cultural differences, which, by their very nature, are not often explicitly stated or well-understood. Indeed, because of reticence to mention a problem in some cultures, a project manager may not even be aware that a problem exists until it is too late to rectify. Cultural differences may necessitate adapting standard project processes and procedures to take account of certain factors. No culture can claim to know the “right” way to run a project, and every culture has been successful in its own right, but maybe by addressing cultural issues we can all learn something from other cultures that will add value to global projects.

So just what are the most typical culture-dependant areas that might require a “non-standard” project approach?

 

  • Communication – Understanding and Interpreting 

Face-to-face communication will always minimise misunderstandings, but it will not eliminate them altogether when cultural differences are significant. Wherever possible, all stakeholders should meet in person prior to the start of the project. Indeed when dealing with some countries, such as China, face-to-face meetings are an essential part of building an all-important trusting working relationship. Understanding other cultures helps a project manager anticipate and respond appropriately to issues during the project and ensures that the project manager’s behavior does not offend or insult the other parties involved.  

Face-to-face meetings help both sides of the cultural divide to gain an understanding of each other’s expectations and aid the interpretation of unspoken signals. In many Asian cultures modesty, patience and politeness are expected behaviors that are not necessarily expected in Western countries (although they would be nice).

Once a project is underway, much of the communication is likely to be by email, which in a western culture is used by the sender of the email to clarify all issues beyond any doubt for the recipient of the email. However, in many Asian cultures detailed clarification of every point can be seen as an insult to the intelligence of the recipient so the onus is on the recipient to infer what is meant by the sender. This factor alone can unintentionally cause problems so, for example, an English PM should emphasise that detailed clarification is simply a part of how projects are done in the U.K. when dealing with Indian or Chinese stakeholders or project teams to avoid causing personal offence.

  • Cultural Viewpoints – Seeing Things from the Other Side: 

Understanding the viewpoint of others involved in a project is a two-way process (or more) to ensure all stakeholders and teams understand the expectations and attitudes of each other. This is not just the case with eastern and western cultures, there can, for example be issues between Indian and Chinese teams involved on the same project where the hierarchical culture of India and the Chinese culture based on personal relationships can cause conflicts in determining the best approach to deal with risks and problems encountered throughout a project.

The success of a project will require an understanding of the underlying values of a different culture and how they affect the working practices of those involved in the project so a professional project manager should take the time to research these different cultures. There are a number of organisations, such as the China-Britain Business Council and the UK-India Business Council that offer useful advice in this area.

But be aware that China and India, in particular, are vast and diverse nations with different underlying sub-cultures and languages so there are no quick and simple tips to understanding all aspects of their cultures. Different attitudes to areas such as project quality, cost and time can exist within different individuals in the same culture. So be cautious about making general assumptions and try to get to know and understand each stakeholder and local project manager as an individual and develop good working relationships that go beyond standard project procedures.

  • Reporting – Obtaining Accurate Progress Information 

Western cultures tend to value openness and frankness when it comes to project progress and reporting. They believe that project issues can be prevented from becoming serious problems if they are raised as soon as they are detected and that serious problems can be better solved by discussing possible solutions with the group. But how issues and problems are handled is a culturally sensitive issue. Admitting to a problem can be seen, in some Eastern cultures, as an admission of failure so a project team leader would not openly report schedule overruns or the inability to complete a task in the same way as his Western counterpart. Instead the information might be gradually brought to the global project manager’s attention bit-by-bit.

Similarly, the way in which changes to the schedule are requested may not always be in the most obvious way. Even on projects where there are defined and documented procedures for updates these procedures may simply not fit with the working mentality of all those involved in the project. For a PM to assume the procedures will be followed by multi-cultural teams simply because they have been defined is a naïve view. Some teams may approve procedures only because it is culturally unacceptable for them to openly disagree with the global PM.

  • The People – The individuals behind the Names 

It is a vital skill for a global project manager to understand what motivates the diverse teams and individuals working on a project and to take the time to provide constructive feedback on completed tasks in order to clearly define ongoing expectations. But, clearly, on a large, complex project being run in various locations around the world it would be impossible for a global PM to know all team members well, let alone understand their personalities and motivations.

This is where building common understanding and trust between the global and local project managers will be of benefit. Working with the local project manager, who can better understand individual motivating factors and who can present feedback in a culturally-sensitive way, can aid the development of multi-cultural project teams which can work efficiently and co-operatively together.

Rivalries and different agendas may exist between culturally different project teams (just as they may between co-located teams) so the network of relationships must be managed sensitively to minimise their impact on the overall success of the global project. It is essential for a successful project outcome that the global PM facilitates co-operation and support between all teams and attempts to minimise conflict.

Whilst it might be possible, in an ideal world, that we all follow some “international” standard of project management, in practise, adapting standard procedures depending on the different cultures involved in a project is likely to lead to more successful project outcomes. Managing global projects presents a particular set of challenges that require specific experience and PM training to overcome the inherent difficulties of cultural divides but the advantages of doing so can lead to a project that achieves cost-effective technical excellence.